• Art / Design / Craft,  Books & Lit,  People

    basel creators: hadi barkat

    One of the things that is always satisfying about the season ahead, and the memories I have of those behind, are some of the amazing books I have read and the joy of relaxing and playing a raucous game or two together with family and friends. Recently I sat down with a man who has made the pursuit of a good read and an entertaining challenge his business. While working in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a successful CEO coach in the field of venture vapital, Hadi Barkat was also studying to take his Swiss citizenship test. Already responsible for his company’s gatherings and offsite entertainment, he employed the services of a game designer, and decided to brainstorm a way to turn his study into a form of entertainment. Out of this was born Helvetiq, initially a trivia game based on Swiss knowledge, and two years on, a fully fledged Swiss publishing house, committed to…

  • Food & Drink,  People

    zürich creators: shem leupin

    At consumer-level, Zurich is not a trend-setting place. The Swiss have built a world class reputation perfecting products of enduring quality, not flash fads. In my opinion that’s a good thing. In such a culture, innovating profitable products, or commodities, especially those that already work so well and satisfy so many, without apparent reason, can hardly be seen as a worthwhile venture. Unlike hugely populated markets hungry for the next big thing – places where creating novelty is a relentless thirst, here in established Zurich it’s a difficult proposition. Yet Zurich doesn’t lack for creativity. In fact, the creativity that succeeds here might just be the kind that matters. For instance: coffee. An essential, mostly overlooked daily ritual, your cup of joe is what it is, and as long as it performs and tastes in the manner expected, who cares? A perfectly valid viewpoint. Food and beverage snobbery is often tiresome,…

  • Food & Drink,  People,  Places

    Mastic

    Early every morning in the village of Vouno, Elisabeth (pictured above) rises and sorts through what looks, at a distance, like a pile of rocks and twigs. Working in a shed beside her village home, her deft hands, gnarled like the trunks of the trees from which she harvests her treasure, meticulously plucking the sticky resin that drips like angels’ tears from the other detritus that carpets the ground of Chios. Reputed to be the birthplace of Homer, Chios is largely overlooked by the hordes of tourists from continental Europe who descend upon Greece each year. But despite the island’s literary pedigree it is the Pistacia lentiscus variety of gum tree unique to Chios that makes the island famous. After scraping and scoring the bark, the tree releases resin which subsequently falls to the levelled ground around the tree trunks and is collected by people such as Elisabeth. This local industry is an important part of Chios’ cultural heritage and…

  • People

    the blessing

    Open a newspaper or turn on the television and you’ll probably get a pretty troubling picture of things in Turkey these days. Sometimes it’s enough to make an outsider want to switch off entirely. Fortunately, peppered in amongst the drama, life still presents many moments of genuine hope here on a daily basis. One such was a couple of weekends ago in Yeniköy. Over the last couple of years I’ve been truly fortunate to attend and enjoy the welcome of the local Rum (Byzantine Greek) community at various events and ceremonies. It’s something that grounds you. And witnessing the baptism of one small but treasured member of their community was a highpoint in my nine years in Turkey, moreover since it was something my family was welcomed in to share. Until a couple of Sundays ago, I had never been fortunate enough to attend such a ceremony. It was truly interesting to watch. Religion gets a…

  • People

    cherry-coloured thanks

    Picked these branches up after a visit to Cup of Joy in Bebek today. My taxi driver asked if they were for him — Hadi Canim! Anyway these branches are kind of reminiscent of calligraphy to me, rather like a floral love note from a Geisha, or at the very least a dog-eared postcard from a long lost girlfriend in Japan in spring when the streets are carpeted with petals.  Ahh … spring. Wish I could take you all there. In any case, think of this as an early Valentine to all of MYPHILOSOFIA’s faithful followers. Thank you for sticking with me over the last two years. You’re every bit as beautiful to me.

  • People

    best friends

    As a parent, few things give me the same pleasure as to see my daughter delight in the company of animals. Anyone who follows this page already knows that animals make regular appearances on this blog as I somehow have greater hope for humanity when I see acts of kindness towards pets, strays or beasts of burden. Perhaps it’s that small recognition of just how much more they add to our lives, and how bereft some of us would feel without them.

  • People

    my favourite photo

    This might well be my favourite photo of the year. While there’s still time left to take more, I can’t help but enjoy this one which shows your more pensive, considered side, Sofia. There’s so much going on behind those big brown eyes of yours, and I like the fact that you aren’t afraid to take the time to consider things so deeply. Except, perhaps, the other day at the hotel swimming pool when you shouted out: “Daddy! Look at that man’s boobies!”

  • People

    time out

    It’s hot. There’s no small amount of turmoil in the land and everybody I know is a little unsure of where they stand right at the moment. You probably won’t remember any of this by the time you can read it, but if it wasn’t for one three-year old person, called Sofia, I don’t know what I’d do. Your view of the world is the only thing keeping me sane, little girl. Thanks for being my reality check and giving me the time out I need from some very real darkness.

  • People

    an international conspiracy

    I have withheld my documentary evidence of certain events that took place a couple of weeks ago in the midst of Turkey’s turmoil for fear that it was not the time for transparency. I apologize for my cowardice. However, I must now add my voice to those others claiming that there are international interests trying to steal Turkey’s beauty away from it. Two Saturdays ago I witnessed an Italian man marry a Turkish woman. To my shame, I stood by and enjoyed the spectacle of two people formalizing the decision to share their love, lives and differing cultures in order to join in a union that will echo through the years, influencing generations to come. I’m sorry if I let you down, Turkey. In addition to taking one of your great beauties as my wife, years later I stood silent witness as another foreigner did the same. Yet I was…

  • People

    last stand

    This week Turkey and the world were inspired by one man’s silent, six-hour protest performed in Taksim Square. Standing Man was a truly beautiful statement made by choreographer Erdem Gunduz which went viral within hours of his performance. Better yet it has since inspired thousands of others around Turkey and the world like the woman above. I’ve been thinking a lot about why this protest resonated so powerfully, and I got my answer when I visited Taksim square the other day. Politics, especially in Turkey, is dominated by middle-aged, finger-pointing bullies. It’s less and less about the content of the argument, and more about how successfully you can shout down your opponent. This afternoon the Mayor of Ankara denounced a Turkish journalist working for the BBC as a spy and is attempting to conduct a Twitter campaign against her. One TV station composed a fake interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.…